Sexual and Reproductive Health

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“The world now has the largest generation of young people in history. UNFPA (2014) estimates that the world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and the youth population is growing fastest in the poorest nations. The United Nations (2015) projects that the world population will reach 10 billion by 2055 and more than 95% of this growth will happen in low and middle income countries (AFIDEP, 2018). The implications of such a big population of young people can have diverse implications. Countries will progress and attain sustainable development if the population of their youth is healthy. The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action Member states recognize that reproductive rights embrace existing human rights and that sexual and reproductive health and rights are central to health, well-being and to development. Since the ICPD drew attention to the special needs of young people regarding sexual and reproductive health in 1994, many programmes, activities and research studies have been carried out to address their sexual and reproductive health needs. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set ambitious goals to end poverty, promote well-being, and protect the planet. One of the goals of the SDGs is to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages with a sub goal of ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes by 2030 (WHO, 2017). Similarly, one of the targets of SDG 5, Gender Equality, is ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the ICPD and the Beijing Platform for Action (UNFPA, 2014).

Sexual and Reproductive Health issues have found their way into the global arena. An international congress with the theme “Promoting Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health” (ASRH) held in Cuenca, Ecuador in 2014 reiterated the importance of prioritizing SRH needs of young people. Participants at the conference observed that young people in Latin America continue to face serious SRH problems and substantial barriers to SRH education and services (Pozo et al., 2014). The congress expressed its concern in the low contraceptive use by young people. Of the estimated 1.2 million unplanned pregnancies in Latin America, half occur during adolescence which is an important stage before adulthood (Pozo et al., 2014). Teenage pregnancies are associated with a higher incidence of maternal mortality and complications during pregnancy and delivery (Pozo et al., 2014). In 2010, unmet need for family planning in Latin America was high and over 10 million unintended pregnancies were occurring annually and 2,000 women were reportedly dying from abortion complications, 45% of whom were under the age of 24 (Richardson and Birn, 2011). As a reactionary measure, the US government subsidized contraceptives sold to Latin America to address the issue of maternal mortality. Policies including provision of a wide array of SRH services at the same place resulted in a reduction of teenage pregnancy and averted the high rates of maternal mortality in Latin America (Richardson and Birn, 2011). The growth of Latin America economies to middle income countries has seen donor aid dwindle presenting a challenge for the heavily funded SRH programmes. For the programmes to be sustainable domestic funding for SRH programmes will need to be prioritized in Latin America.

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Universities are home to a large number of young people in the prime of their lives and at their peak years of sexual activity. This period between age 17 and 25, where young people are regarded as “emerging adults,” is defined as a transition period in which individuals do not feel like adolescents yet do not feel fully adult. For most people, this period coincides with university and college admission which often presents many young people with their first opportunity of real independence with no parents or guardians to watch over them (UNESCO, 2017). This independence can result in negative SRH outcomes if not handled with care. \

A study by Gómez-Camargo et al. (2014) to investigate the state of sexual and reproductive health among students at a public university in the Colombian found out that even though the age of sexual debut is less than 18 years old for some students, a majority of the students begin their sexual debut while at the university. Interestingly, despite of the high risks of unplanned pregnancies and HIV infection, generally, the students had low education about HIV transmission and contraception. The study found out that some (12.3 %) of the student population had a history of pregnancy, physical violence (21.6 %) and sexual violence (4.6 %) with a predominant silence from the victims of sexual abuse (61.8 %) (Gómez-Camargo et al., 2014). Moreover, a majority (55%) of the student population used condoms as a family planning method. The main gap noted is that adolescents are not prepared for the time they will be in universities and the challenges the independence of being in university will pose. A different study carried out by Posada (1995) among University of Antioquia, Colombia students presented the importance of prioritizing SRH issues. The study found out that among the study participants who were sexually active, 10.9% had contracted some form of STIs in the course of their studies while those reporting having had sex with strangers had the greatest risk of contracting STDs than those not reporting to have had sex with strangers (Posada, 1995). A whopping 28.4% of the survey respondents or their partners reported to have gotten pregnant in the course of their studies with 49% of the survey respondents reporting to have terminated the pregnancies (Posada, 1995). Even with such worrying statistics, the use of contraceptives was reported by only 51.3% of the survey participants (Posada, 1995). The contraceptives mostly mentioned as commonly used by University of Antioquia students are”

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Sexual and Reproductive Health. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved from